Living Beyond Reality Press, $3.99, ISBN 0-9778722-9-9
Sci-fi Romance, 2006
Diana Laurence writes what she calls “soulful sex” stories, which to me are love stories with explicit sex scenes with the author going the extra mile to emphasize the romance as well as the sex in these stories. I, being a romance reader, naturally think this is a great concept.
Soulful Sex: The Science Fiction Collection is a little more focused than the author’s previous collection of short stories in that the three stories here have a specific theme, science-fiction elements, instead of a hodge-podge of fantasy elements. The three stories are not equal. The first story is excellent when the remaining two stories are ordinary. The first story tilts this collection towards above average territory because I really love the story.
That story, Alloy Love, is set in year 2077 when sexual contact is forbidden due to a venereal plague called, imaginatively enough, the V-Plague that killed many people. This plague thing has been used in many science-fiction and movies before but Ms Laurence has a reason to use this overdone plotline.
Helen Cameron is a manager in the marketing department of AddamsTech. AddamsTech is the Microsoft of sex toys. In a time when sexual contact is viewed as dangerous, Rodger Addams created a device that replicated the sensations of sexual pleasure for the user in ways that are so much better than that to be had from actual sex with another person, so it wasn’t long before society changes and the use of AT machines becomes widespread. After all, why have sex with another person when it’s safer and better (and, no doubt, easier to clean up) to switch on your friendly AT machine at home?
AddamsTech has just launched AT-5, a machine that is even better than AT-4 because this model is less metallic and more “organic” in its appearance. However, Helen realizes that she’s feeling a little funny inside even when she’s not using her AT-5. In a time when emotions like love and the craving for human touch are completely alien (Helen at the start of this story does not, like many people of her time, does not find another person sexually attractive), poor Helen is not immediately aware of the fact that she’s falling in love with her new colleague Sandhil Narayan.
I love this story to pieces due to the way Ms Laurence sensitively portray the emotional as well as sexual awakening in Helen in such a manner that captures all those beautiful moments of falling in love. This story works very well because it is not sappy or sentimental. Instead, Ms Laurence trusts me enough to just tell the story and letting me get what she is trying to say in her story instead of beating me in the head with anvils. There is sex in this story, but ultimately it’s a love story. Helen is a very well-written character and the author lets me inside Helen’s head enough that when Helen finally falls in love, I’m right there with her.
Coming after Alloy Love, the next two stories are disappointing indeed.
Claude’s Laboratory is a time-travel story and this one actually makes me feel uneasy. Jane Howard goes to sleep on October 16, 1871 and wakes up the next morning in the distant future on a different planet. The humanoid alien Claude has “borrowed” her as a test subject of a research that he must conduct on the pain of death. Or so he says. Naturally he wants to seduce Jane as part of this research. Jane is all for it. Now, this story already makes me feel uneasy when Claude tells Jane that he has drugged her so that she will not feel fear about her current situation. Therefore, to me, everything she feels about Claude subsequently is suspect – she is after all under the influence of alien chemicals. And what kind of creep will kidnap someone from a different planet for a shag, even in the name of science, without a by your leave? Claude tells Jane that his kind cannot lie. Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m Jane, I’ll be thinking, “Well, that’s what you say, buster. How do I know that your kind isn’t the other way around, which is to say, you cannot tell the truth?” This entire story isn’t about the heart to me as much as the aftereffects of a drug that may or may not be pretty much some kind of date rape drug that gets Jane to do things against her will. The entire premise is suspect so I don’t like this story at all.
Spacewrecked with Joel Fennimore is thankfully less distressingly ambiguous in its premise. Set in the 22nd century, Evangeline Parkers is pleased as punch because she’s been commissioned to write the authorized biography of her favorite futuristic “space survivalist”, Joel Fennimore. Joel stars in a series of Spacewrecked shows where he pits himself against the hostile terrains and climates of wild and uncharted planets. Evie will be accompany Joel to the destination of his next show – a planet called Eknis. I won’t say what they find in Eknis, I’ll just say that unlike Alloy Love, the “love and save the environment” message in this story is as subtle than a bull stampede in a china shop. This is a pleasant story, but it’s also an ordinary one lacking the depths of Alloy Love. Perhaps the author should have switched the orders of the stories around so that the collection would have ended on a high note.
Because of Alloy Love, I’m really glad that I read this collection. Diana Laurence has something good going with her Soulful Sex concept and I hope she will never stop doing what she is doing.